Many seniors live on a fixed income and I know how important Social Security checks are for their medicines and day-to-day living expenses. But, to ensure that future retirees will receive the benefits they have been promised, it will be necessary to make some fundamental improvements to Social Security. I believe it is important to preserve Social Security the way it is now for those current and near-retirees, while giving younger workers the option of investing a large part of their existing retirement taxes in a personal retirement account to raise their retirement income. This would make it possible for younger workers to earn much more than what they would receive from the existing system. I look forward to working with the President and my colleagues to address this issue.
I voted for the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003 on November 22, 2003. Although this bill is not perfect, it will help move Medicare into the 21st Century. It will add cutting-edge health care and improve the options seniors have in their medical programs. It also increases funding for rural and suburban hospitals, affecting many Oklahomans in the Fourth Congressional District.
Beginning in 2006, Medicare beneficiaries can join a voluntary prescription drug plan that costs about $35 a month and limits out-of-pocket costs to approximately $3600 per year. Retirees whose former employers already provide prescription drug coverage will not have their existing plans jeopardized. Also, seniors will be free to order their medicines at any pharmacy of their choice.
It is simply unconscionable that many seniors are faced with a decision between paying for their prescription medicines and paying for food. With passage of this legislation, the burden of paying for prescription drugs has been substantially reduced for senior citizens, particularly low-income seniors with high drug costs. Seniors have been waiting for 38 years for Medicare to include prescription drug coverage. I did not believe seniors should be made to wait any longer. There is still much work to be done to further strengthen and improve Medicare for our senior citizens, and to save it for future generations.